Optical assistants are specialised medical assistants who help optometrists complete both clinical and clerical duties, according to Education-Portal.com. Most optical assistants work in private optometrists’ offices, but they also can find employment in health clinics or even in laboratories that fill prescriptions and repair broken eyeglass frames, reports StateUniversity.com.
Optical assistants are responsible for preparing examination rooms, measuring patients’ vision and performing basic diagnostic tests, according to Education-Portal. In addition, they help optometrists during eye examinations that test colour blindness or even eye pressure. Prior to exams, optical assistants might be responsible for placing drops in patients’ eyes or guiding them to eye-testing machines.
Teaching patients how to use their contact lenses and prescription eye glasses correctly is another chief responsibility of optical assistants. These assistants help patients select eyeglass frames that fit their faces and adjust their glasses when necessary. In addition, optical assistants schedule patient appointments, update patient records, do filing and bookkeeping and field telephone calls from patients. They also send bills to patients and receive payments.
Solid written, verbal and interpersonal communications skills are critical for optical assistants, who work regularly with patients and must explain optometrists’ instructions clearly to them. These individuals also should have strong math skills and be professional and reliable. They should be courteous, well-groomed and able to maintain confidential patient information based on the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act as well. In addition, they should have good vision and manual dexterity, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Optical assistants must have at least a high school diploma or GED. However, those who complete a one-year certificate or two-year associate's degree program in medical assisting increase their employment opportunities. These programs are available at technical/vocational schools and community colleges and teach students medical ethics, medical coding, medical technology and computer software skills. Optical assistants also can seek certification through organisations such as the Association of Medical Technologists or the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Employment of medical assistants, which includes optical assistants, is projected to climb 34 per cent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This can be attributed to growth in the ageing population, which will spark a demand for more health care services. Optical assistants in 2010 earned between £13,236 and £18,431, according to Payscale.com.